Around Amsterdam: Sunday in the Nine Streets

Showing friends around Amsterdam is one of my favorite things to do. It's so special to give them a little peek into my life here along the canals. I recently spent a warm Sunday afternoon wandering around Amsterdam's charming Nine Streets area with my friend Jen, her husband and their cheerful, chubby baby. They previously lived here last year and luckily, the trio snuck in a few days in Amsterdam during their recent trip to Germany and France, we got to enjoy a bit of Dutch summer together. We were first introduced though our blogs a few years ago when Jen and Justin were on an expat adventure living in Amsterdam (and Italy). Funny enough, we all share similar roots from Florida!

Clustered within a scenic strip of Amsterdam's canal district, the Nine Streets are filled with posh shops, quaint cafes and unique boutiques. We strolled along with baby Ezra, peeking into shop windows and taking lots of pictures along the way. Luckily, sunshine followed us all afternoon and we stopped for a break one of my favorite terraces for a round of biertjes, kaastengels and watching the world go by.

They're currently living in Brooklyn but we missed a chance to hang out during my quick trip to NYC last month, so this was a fantastic alternative. Actually, the timing couldn't have been more perfect, since I've recently returned to Amsterdam myself and am enjoying a few relaxing weeks to settle in before my masters program starts this autumn.

As the four of us made our way back along the Prinsengrahct, we added a stop at Ijscupje (my favorite ice cream in Amsterdam!) to our agenda. Ice cream is always a good idea, especially on a warm, summer day! I chose a scoop of bokkenpootjes. Ever heard of it?

They're a Dutch chocolate-almond cookie with a scoop of tangy blood orange on top. We enjoyed our cones canal side while baby Ezra giggled happily while his chubby cheeks were completely covered in ice cream.

Sunny Sundays are the best. I going to keep my fingers crossed that we get a few more before the seasons switch. Here are a few other photos from our day...

P.S. You can browse more of Jen & Justin's travels on her blog and check out Freshly Picked, Jen's lovely flower styling company, full of dreamy bouquets.

Weekend Wanderings: Florida's Best Beach

With the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Florida's 1,350 miles of sandy, sunny, palm sprinkled coastline offer innumerable beach going days. As you can imagine, upon my return to the

Sunshine State

blue skies called my name and I flocked to the beach as much as possible.

You may think that with so much coast, it'd be hard to pick a favorite beach spot but for me, there is only one beach. Playa Linda aka "The Best Beach" between my friends and I. Unlike other eastern shores, cars are (thankfully!) not allowed at Playa Linda as it belong to a protected marine area belonging to the

Canaveral National Sea Shore

. And for those of you interested, clothing is optional in some areas too.

Twenty-four miles of undeveloped coast plump with

sea turtle nests

 during the spring and summer months.

No cars, no houses, no shops. Just beach... as it should be. 

Playa Linda is literally means a beautiful beach as you can see right here...

After receiving news of my acceptance to all three of my graduate school applications in the Netherlands (!!!) I knew my Florida beach time would soon come to a long pause, so I quickly opted to soak all the sunshine (Yes. All. Of. It.) and headed to the beach almost weekly before my time ran out. This was somewhat of a challenging endeavor what, with all the bits and pieces that come with moving abroad (again!).

Before flying back to Holland, I spent one more day at Playa Linda following a morning of paddle boarding close by. An impending storm was headed inland and once a few rain drops sprinkled down, the other visitors packed up and left one by one. Eventually, we had the entire beach all to ourselves...

I'm writing this post back in Amsterdam and watching the gray clouds drizzle. I can't help but think back to the salty sea breeze, sun pinched skin, warm sand between my toes back in Florida. I love Amsterdam but the lack of sunny days will always be a struggle for me here. Rainy days may lend credit for my productivity but I'm wishing you sunshine where ever you are!

German Village Fair

Heading back from Berlin, we decided it would be fun to stop in a German town along the way. Having been stuck in terrible holiday season traffic, we were long overdue to stretch our legs.

Somewhere in between Hannover and Amsterdam, we found Rinteln, a village along the Wesser River dating back to 1150. It was a quick visit, just enough time to pick up a postcard for Granny (my forever penpal), grab a beer and check out the little village fair. 

Come on, how cute is their town square!? This is the dreamy stuff fairy tales are made of...

This is place really is what fairy tales are made of. Here's a fun fact... On our way down the hill, into Rinteln, we passed the village of Hamelin, as in the Rattenvanger van Hamelen... Still don't get it? This is the where the Pied Piper lured the rats away. Ha!

Lucky for us, a summer fair was happening in Rinteln. We wandered the fair, munched on some garlicky cauliflower and mushrooms and rode on rickety, colorful ferris wheel that dated back to 1880s. 

We enjoyed a Greek salad while listening to a German band cover hits of Donna Summers and other 80s disco songs. Which, I suppose is exactly what you're supposed to do at a little village fair like this. 

Sunset along the Weser and road trip lights heading back into Holland...

Day Trip to Ghent: Part III

Last time I went beer sampling in Belgium, Brussels to be exact, we drank so many that I actually had to stop taking pictures of them due to lack of space on my memory card. 
You see, there are simply so many beers here that visiting Ghent felt like a Golden age theme park for beer lovers. Yes, I'd say we were pleased.

If you missed the other parts of our adventure read Ghent Part I (we ate speculoos cupcakes!) and Ghent Part II (the medieval castle!)

 

This time around, we kept it simple. After eating cupcakes and tour of Gravensteeg castle we headed down the street to Het Waterhuis aan de Bier Krant. It was a delicious afternoon break complete with sunshine, views of the canal and a chilled Delirium blond beer.


In between rounds of beers we explored the cobblestone streets, poked around little shops 
and couldn't stop admiring the sun soaked buildings... 


 
 
 
Apparently yarn bombing has hit Ghent, but it looks like they missed a few spots. 

We stopped to sample the traditional candy of Ghent, neuzen. This was probably a tourist trap but the (nose shaped?) soft candies weren't so bad. I hate to say it but I actually preferred the licorice flavor... does that mean I've been in Holland too long?


Then we continued to wander more... and spotted cute gabled buildings here, there and everywhere. 
A very leisurely afternoon indeed... 

 
 
 
 

Much like the disappointing postcard selection, we had a hard time finding decent frites in Ghent. So, we quickly headed away from the snack bar and walked along the river bank where everyone was relaxing and soaking up the sunshine. While strolling along we set out for some retail therapy at one of my favorite shops, Dille & Kamille. I picked up a jar of biological jam and Ellen found a miniature plant.

 
 
 
We headed back to Amsterdam at sunset and I cycled back home in time to enjoy popcorn and a movie.  Little road trips are so much fun, our trip to Ghent made for a perfectly lovely day. 

I'd love to know if you have any recommendations for other day trips around this area!

Day Trip to Ghent: Part I

I understand that it's easy for others to often over romanticise my life abroad here in Holland. It really is lovely to walk along the canals and visit famous works of art just down the street. Sharing those experiences is important and a strong reason why I keep this blog.

But I promise you, the expat life isn't always as fancy as it seems and all the regular daily life requirements can sometimes feels 10x harder because it doesn't feel normal. For each of the picturesque moments there are equal if not more moments of embarrassment or frustration that come along with being a foreigner but...

Then again, sometimes living the expat life does feel glamorous! Like on Saturday, when Ellen and I took a mini road trip to visit the quaint, historical city of Ghent. Belgium is only a two hour drive from Amsterdam so it was perfect for a day trip! I hope I never become jaded by the fact that you can drive to another country and back in just a day, from and American perspective it's so cool.

After parking in the city center we set out to find a coffee and wi-fi to finish our sightseeing 'to-do' list. Honestly, we didn't even need a list because first, wandering around Ghent is simply adorable. And second, it's so small that you really just make one loop and you've seen it all.


Ellen caught me going over our itinerary

 Coffee + Chocolates at Daskalidès 

Then, we set out to explore the city in search of Julie's House. This bakery was recommended by a friend and naturally we needed to sample a sweet treat ourselves, because lattes and Belgian chocolates simply weren't enough for one afternoon...


I wanted to send a postcard here, but unfortunately the selection in Ghent was subpar. I guess the put all their energy in designing letter boxes instead.

Charming, isn't it?

Snapping a few shots in search of our sugar rush...

Everything in Julie's House looked so tasty but the choice was simple. We ordered a speculoos and a red velvet cupcake to share. Then we quickly decided that calories don't count on weekends.

Yum, yum yum!

A few other snacks that I upheld the urge not to eat...

Since we gobbled up the cupcakes in less than five-minutes we had plenty energy to explore the castle. Hiking up ancient stone towers was a great way to burn off the 'calorie free' cupcakes!

You can read more about our adventures in Ghent Part II (the castle!) and Ghent Part III (lots of beers!)